CTX Journal Vol. 4, No. 4
From the Editor
What a difference a few months can bring—and how much stays the same. When I sat down in July to write the letter for the August issue (vol. 4, no. 3), Syria was still in crisis, Iraq was quickly sliding deeper into crisis, a radical Sunni militia calling itself ISIL/ISIS was starting to monopolize the terror headlines, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was boiling over into tragedy again. Since then, Al Shabaab lost its head, northern Iraq and southeastern Syria were carved into what its occupiers are now calling the Islamic State, and the United States and its allies have flown their advisors and bombers back into a wicked problem that will have global consequences for generations to come. No one seems able to agree on whether these changes are actually something new or just a rebranding of the same old jihad. Paradoxically, events may promise those tasked with combating terrorism far more job security than any of us really wishes for.
It's easy for the Western allies to obsess over terrorism in the Middle East, but other countries are dealing with internal and external terrorism in their own ways. I spent a few weeks in India over the summer, meeting with journalists, scholars, and military analysts to talk about their research and the subcontinent's terrorist movements. My goal was to invite contributions to CTX, and this issue brings you the first fruit of that mission. Dr. Sanchita Bhattacharya leads the issue off with an analysis of the political and legal climate in Pakistan that allows seemingly unlimited funding to flow to indigenous terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba. Not only do tough-sounding laws go unenforced, she observes, but the Pakistani regime itself appears complicit in enabling terrorism to flourish.
The next article, by Dr. Chris Harmon and Dr. Paula Holmes-Eber, focuses on women who have taken an active role in terrorism. We often forget that, from the radical leftist groups of the mid-twentieth century to anti-colonial insurgencies to present-day suicide bombers, some women have proven just as fervent as some men when it comes to their embrace of terrorism. We then turn from a topic that typically receives too little attention to one that might be receiving too much. Dr. Siamak Naficy describes the ways in which a current fascination with cultural sensitivity training in military and policy circles can actually obscure more than it illuminates. From his perspective as an anthropologist, he urges us to reexamine our own cherished assumptions if we hope to understand our opponents.
What does it say about a culture that creates annual holidays to honor its war dead and its military veterans, but then turns those holidays into just another excuse for brass band concerts and outdoor grilling? MAJ Anthony Heisler found himself asking this question when a well-meaning civilian wished him a "Happy Memorial Day!" His essay is his attempt to find an answer, and perhaps, bring change.
Last June, a group of 40 marksmen from seven countries gathered in Kazakhstan for the fifth annual "Golden Owl" international competition for sniper teams. MAJ Tlek Mirza and LT Ruslan Bek describe the competition, which took place over the course of several days in daunting weather conditions. The article is illustrated with a number of nice images of the event taken by photojournalist Samat Kazhymov.
For the CTAP interview, Amina Kator-Mubarez and I spoke with LTC Chok Dhakal of the Nepalese Army. LTC Dhakal spoke frankly about the difficulties the Royal Nepal Army (as it was then known) faced in confronting Maoist insurgents over the course of a bloody 12-year civil war. Although the years of fighting severely strained the country's military, LTC Dhakal remains optimistic about the future of civil-military relations in republican Nepal.
Ethicist George Lober offers an unsettling rumination on the moral dilemmas military personnel in particular must confront "when dealing with the truly diabolical." Where, he asks, would you draw the line between honoring the rule of law and engaging in extrajudicial killing when innocent lives are clearly at stake?
Next, Indian journalist Malladi Rama Rao reviews a book by terrorism experts Surinder Kumar Sharma and Ansuhman Behera, Militant Groups in Southeast Asia (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2014). And last, but not least, in a think piece about the purposes of movies, LTC Samuel Bettwy wonders whether American filmmakers are wasting an opportunity to positively influence Muslim audiences by collaborating with their Middle Eastern counterparts—something European filmmakers have already begun to do.
Don't forget to check out the latest monographs from the Joint Special Operations University in our Publications Announcements, and as always, I hope you will drop me a line and let me know what you think about CTX: CTXEditor@GlobalEcco.org. You can also like Global ECCO on Facebook to receive news updates on topics of interest to the CT community.
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Managing Editor, CTX